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Lecture notes 2-20: Utilitarianism.docx

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CAS PH 150
Matt Cartmill

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Utilitarianism radical in sense that it challenges some things we think are morally right are actually morally wrong Ex: eating meat Some things are morally right that we think are wrong (cannibalism) Both a strength and a weakness Objection: • Utilitarianism requires too much of us • Utilitarianism is too impartial (treats everyone equally) o Burning houses and a mother must save 2 strangers than her one child • Injustice-a student asking for a better grade would improve net well-being but it is not fair The problem of calculation • One problem is the claim that the utilitarian “calculations” cannot be done, even in principle • Incommensurable (two things cannot be compared) values: there is no standard measurement which would allow us to compare different values, qualities, or types of experience • Amt. of autonomy=amt. of happiness? • Amt. of lower pleasures=amt. of higher pleasures? Ought implies can • Notice: if utilitarianism requires of us something that is impossible to do, it violates the “ought implies can” principle • Utilitarianism requires us to do the action which yields the highest net well-being • The problem of calculation is that we can never know what the morally right thing to do is • We can’t be required to do what is morally right if it is impossible to know what the
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